HANNIBAL | A Hannibal mother remembers she “had an epiphany” three years ago, determined to turn her life around by getting off disability assistance and pursuing her dream career.
Alison Ross, of Hannibal, said the moment came when her daughter, Payton, was three years old. She “uplifted herself” as a newly-single mother, ready to go back to school and pursue a career to provide for her family's needs. Ross is a participant in the new Jump Start Your Future program between Northeast Community Action Corporation, Northeast Missouri Workforce Investment Board and Connections to Success — providing up to $4,000 in grant money for each eligible resident to pay for expenses like tuition for returning to school.
Carla Potts, deputy director for housing programs with NECAC, said the program began when she talked with Kathy Lambert, CEO and co-founder of Connections of Success. NECAC works to build and renovate housing for residents in its coverage area, and Potts said she and Lambert discussed ways to bring new education and career opportunities to residents in the area. They collaborated with Diane Simbro, executive director of the NEMO Workforce Investment Board so each organization could combine their resources, and they will continue to work together through each step of the participant's career path.
Simbro said participants can connect with free training and seek other funding streams — which can provide services like safety shoes and transportation to a place of employment — for people facing situations including unemployment and underemployment. Participants then enroll in the Connections to Success class, deciding which path fits best so they can work with NECAC and the NEMO Workforce Investment Board to achieve their goals through the Jump Start Your Future program.
Lambert said her organization enrolls participants in a class where students can start working toward their dreams, coming up with a comprehensive “life plan” including aspects like housing, health, education and employment. She said “it's all about the partnership” to make the program successful, and she stressed the grants help people become more active in the economic development aspect of their communities by making more purchases and paying taxes as they achieve the career they want in a secure home.
“They have all kinds of dreams, and how can we help them achieve their dreams?” Potts said. Ross remembered when she knew the path she would take toward her dreams.
“It's just the point where you don't want to rely on that disability check, or you want to be free on your own — to achieve all your dreams, change your perspective in life from what made me down to up,” Ross said.
The Jump Start Your Future program will kick off with a Back to School Fair at 4 p.m. Saturday, August 15, in the Community Room of the Hannibal Apartments, 202 Centerville Road. The grant program features grant program includes $458,000 in funding through the CARES Act and the NEMO Workforce Investment Board will be shared with residents in Anderson Estates in Palmyra, as well, and the assistance is available to eligible residents in Lewis, Macon, Marion, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, Ralls, Randolph and Shelby counties.
Ross said the new program will bolster financial aid and other assistance she receives, especially when it comes to unexpected costs like lab fees or when her laptop recently failed. Potts commended Ross for volunteering to help others following a path like hers by teaching a class on writing essays to apply for $2,500 scholarships through the Horizon Foundation.
Ross said her past pain issues and subsequent success in breaking her dependency on pain medications initially inspired her to become a rehabilitation counselor to help others who faced similar situations. Her career trajectory changed slightly, but she still plans to help people. Ross is a sophomore and is 11 credit-hours away from receiving her Associate of Arts degree from Moberly Area Community College. From there, she transfer for her Bachelor's degree, with a major in teaching and a minor in business.
With the next steps of her journey just ahead, Ross offered inspiration to anyone who is considering following their dreams.
“If there's anybody else out there, if you have a passion and you don't think that you can go for it — you have that doubt in yourself — if you just push a little bit harder, you change your perspective, you can do anything you put your mind to,” Ross said.